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Systems for State Science Assessment
components of science, but this is not the norm. Illinois explicitly attends to these interconnections in organizing its standards; state goal 12 reads, “[Students will] understand the fundamental concepts, principles and interconnections of the life, physical and earth/space sciences.”2 Only a few state standards attempt to show how scientific topics are related to material in other disciplines, such as mathematics. New Jersey science standard number 5.3, for example, states: “All students will integrate mathematics as a tool for problem-solving in science, and as a means of expressing and/or modeling scientific theories.”3
While most state science standards are limited to descriptions of science content, some go further to describe aspects of content that are relevant to teaching and learning. For example, some standards give suggestions regarding lesson structure (how scientific information is organized and presented) or instructional approach (how teachers interact with students about science content). Some standards include helpful information about the structure and transmittal of scientific knowledge, and a few describe desired student attitudes toward science. In addition, some standards contain assessment-related information, such as conditions for student performance (how students demonstrate their scientific understanding). This information is helpful both for teachers and assessment designers. Box 4-1 includes a small portion of the Rhode Island science standards that illustrates this point.
Finally, there are some useful features that the committee found in only a few state standards, such as examples of real-world contexts in which scientific principles apply. Many of these examples are found in the elementary or early middle grades. Delaware and Nevada both provide such contexts in their science standards. The standards of one or two states contain lists of required or expected scientific terminology. For example, Utah’s standards include lists of science language that students should understand and use in meeting specific standards. Box 4-2 includes a portion of the Utah state science standards in which guidance is given to teachers on important terminology that students should learn and be able to use. Some states make explicit the connections between the science standards and the curriculum. For example, Florida requires publishers to align textbooks with the state standards. An increasing number of states, including Alaska, Florida, and Indiana, also include in their standards student understanding about the history of science or the role of science in contemporary society.
The one general principle that emerged from the committee’s review of state science standards is the importance of clear, thorough, understandable descriptions. For standards to play a central role in assessment and accountability systems, they must communicate clearly to all the stakeholders in the system—